Perched on the east peak of Mount Tamalpais, the Verna Dunshee Trail might offer the most views in the shortest stretch of any path in sight of San Francisco. As hikers wind their way clockwise around the easy, three-quarter-mile loop just below the craggy summit, they look out over a dense forest of Douglas fir that opens to reveal the rolling hills of Sonoma and the flats of San Pablo Bay. Then, turning south, the walk culminates in postcard-worthy views of the city itself and the glittering Pacific. Local historian Fred Runner calls it the “greatest variety of scenery that you can see in the whole Bay Area.”
At the nearby Gravity Car Barn, curious sightseers can climb aboard a meticulously re-created train car of the kind that used to roll on the Mount Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway, nicknamed the Crookedest Railroad in the World. From 1896 to 1929, the railway used steam engines to carry hundreds of people a day up an eight-mile track with 281 curves and switchbacks, then gave them the option of rolling back down in the motorless gravity cars. These early adventurers got more than majestic scenery when they reached the top; they also found the Tavern of Tamalpais, since demolished, where they ate, drank, and made merry.